The moment you realize that your life was nothing but a mere marketing tactic played by the cosmetics and beauty industry, you will start perceiving things differently. And through this post I would like to take the lid off the beauty industry which has always been reminding you “how ugly you look” from time immemorial, and here is the irony that you are perfectly ok with them telling you that “you are ugly”, but if the same thing is said by your friends and family you will be easily offended, isn’t it? Now that’s what I call hypocrisy.
Nature loves variety; only the beauty industry loves conformity.SKIN DEEP, By Pat Thomas
Why Beauty Has Become So Important ?
Well, this has to do more with the way our human brain has been programmed. Humans are visual creatures, that’s why we fall in love with a beautiful painting, with beaches and with places like the Paris, Rome, because they are visually pleasing to our eyes. Its no surprise to mention that over 90 percent of information that is processed by our brain is visual. The below image shows visual dorsal stream (green) and ventral stream (purple) . Much of the human cerebral cortex is involved in vision.
So its in the nature of we humans to naturally get attracted to things which are beautiful and are pleasing to our eyes. Everything comes with a cost, so does intelligence. With time we used these intelligent brain of ours to define the word “Beauty”. So what exactly is beauty? And why is it given so importance?
Debugging the myth: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”
For me, I find it really hard to agree with this statement ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, because it never made sense when this world has already set some prerequisite standard to measure and understand what beauty is. Be it having a flawless glowing fair skin, fat free body, or a pimple free face and it doesn’t end there, people are not even happy the way their body or face looks just because they don’t resemble a Barbie Doll or Kim Kardashian. This is the era where people are throwing their money to go under the knife just to be look alike, so that they easily fit under the “ideal beauty type”. When this society embraces idealism in beauty, being different and unique is unwelcomed.
Sneak peak to the history of Beauty Standards
During the Victorian Era in UK, excessive and heavy makeups were considered promiscuous, however this didn’t stop women from trying out new remedies or cosmetics to fix their imperfections. Most women longed for a pure and natural face free from marks, blemishes and freckles.
Lead Based Cosmetics: Both men and women desired a fair and healthy complexion as it also distinguished a persons social status. Cosmetics that promised a pale blemish free face contained toxic elements such as lead which women used to apply on to their face and bosoms to get the desired pale painted look. Maria, Countess of Coventry was a young English women who died at the tender age of 27 because of blood poisoning caused by using lead based cosmetics. Lead is a corrosive element so every time women coated their skin with lead it damaged their skin so badly that they had no choice but to coat their skin with more and more quantities of lead.
Belladonna: During the Victorian era watery-eyes were considered attractive and women used drops of Belladonna to achieve this. Belladonna or otherwise commonly called as deadly nightshade is a poisonous plant which causes blindness if used for long enough.
Arsenic Wafers: Apart from lead based cosmetics, arsenic wafers were also widely used by women to improve the paleness of their skin and this practice was followed for decades because of its effectiveness in skin lightening. People were not much aware of the long term consequences of using Arsenic. Arsenic is a toxic element, and this came into light when Arsenical keratoses (growth of keratin on the skin which is considered precancerous) was first recognized in the 18th century because of the medicinal usage of arsenic to cure syphilis and asthma. Other than Arsenical keratoses, long term uses of Arsenic caused health issues such as hair loss, kidney damage, vitiligo – a condition when skin loses its pigmentation. Dr. James P. Campbell’s Safe Arsenic Complexion Wafers was one such wafers that contained white arsenic chalks and yet it was still labeled and marketed as “Guaranteed absolutely safe and harmless to anybody”.
Edo period – Japan
Lead Based Cosmetics: During the Feudal Edo period in Japan having a pale complexion was considered prestigious. Hence women who belonged to nobility or upper ranks such as the Samurai society used to apply lead based white face powder to their face. This was done by first dissolving the white face powder to the water and then applying it to the face using hands or a broad.
Based on a new study, scientists have found out sky-high lead levels in the bones of samurai kids which could result in severe intellectual impairment, reduced attention span, hyperactivity, and antisocial behavior. According to the research, childrens who were under the age of 3 had a median level of 1,241 micrograms of lead per 1gram of dry bone which is said to be 120 times the level thought to cause neurological and behavioral problems today.
But how was the children even poisoned with such high levels of lead in the first case? Well studies says that the Samurai women’s quest for beauty and the desire to look fair has resulted in increased usage of lead based cosmetics which then affected their children through breast milk.
Early 90’s – France
Radioactive Cosmetics – After the discovery of Radium by the French scientists Marie and Pierre Curie in 1898, Radium became commonly used in cosmetics, one such example is Tho-Radia – which included a cleansing milk, skin cream, powder, rouge, toothpaste and lipstick, Tho-Radia contained two radioactive element such as Thorium and Radium, and it was distributed with the marketing tagline “Scientific Beauty Product / (Méthod Scientific de Beauté)”.
Though the product was expensive because of the active elements used in it, it was still widely sold throughout France from 1933 to 1960’s. Even the medical benefits of using Radium were highly publicized in the French press and were well known among the general public. People back then weren’t aware about the complications or severity of using Radioactive elements, all they thought was that it had some energy in it which will help them gain a fair complexion. Below is one such marketing claim published by the company in one of its associated booklet:
Elle stimule la vitalité cellulaire active la circulation, élimine la graisse, empêche la déformation des pores, previent et guérit dartres, boutons, rougeurs, défend la peau contre les miasmas et les intempéries, combat toutes les altérations de l’épipiderme, evite at supprime les rides, conserve la fraîcheur et l’éclat du teint.
Translation:(Dictionnaire soins de beauté. p. 37) | Source: Cosmetic and Skin
Stimulates cellular vitality, activates circulation, firms skin, eliminates fats, stops enlarged pores forming, stops and cures boils, pimples, redness, pigmentation, protects from the elements, stops ageing and gets rid of wrinkles, conserves the freshness and brightness of the complexion.
Nitty Gritty Of The Cosmetics We Use Today
Well, gone were the days when we used cosmetics which contained Lead, Mercury and what not, even radioactive elements like Thorium and Radium. It must be really hard to believe that there was an era in the human kind when poisonous cosmetics where trending in the market, but how is it different from the situation now? are we still swindled by the fake promises made by the cosmetic industry? how safe are cosmetics we use today?
Most people think of the skin as a barrier. In reality it is more like a sponge and it can quickly absorb a significant amount – scientists estimate up to 60 per cent – of whatever you put onto it.SKIN DEEP, By Pat Thomas
After doing a bit research on the chemicals which we use in the cosmetics today, this is what I’ve found:
- Kathon CG: Based on a study that was conducted a decade ago, Kathon CG – one of the most common preservative ingredient used in the cosmetics today, is said to be “mutagenic”, in other words capable of causing genetic mutations, Another main constituent of Kathon CG, “methylchloroisothiazolinone” is a neurotoxin which can affect our nervous system.
- Parabens: Parabens can affect the mechanisms of cells in the breast and can potentially influence the abnormal growth of breast cells, leading to increased risk of breast cancer. These days you may find cosmetics in the market labelled “Paraben-Free”, but still a lot of cosmetics still use parabens as on of the main ingredient.
- Mineral Oil: Skin Moisturizers which are available in the market these days contain mineral oil, which can slow down cell renewal and promote premature skin ageing. So by using all these cosmetics, what are we actually doing? we are literally causing more harm to our skin than doing something to it.
So, What’s Next?
Everything we ever wanted is already present on the earth in its natural form, anything else created through man made efforts are purely to satisfy one’s selfish needs and growing demand.
We should start loving ourselves for the way we are, the world may label us ugly and let them be. What makes a person really beautiful is to be confident on his/her body. Don’t hide your imperfections, let them define your ingenuity. A world where being fake has become the trend, not everyone has the courage to show the world who they really are. Imperfections are not meant be hidden behind some fake cosmetic masks that may even cost your life. Don’t be a scapegoat in the hands of the cosmetic industry which has only reminded you about your imperfections. Let’s Live Bold and Live Beautiful!